Synology has some interesting news today.
With its new run-off-the-mill DS423 low-cost server — not to be confused with the DS423+ — and a new line of self-branded Plus Series hard drives, the NAS maker announced something entirely new, the BeeDrive.
Let’s start with the DS423.
Synology DS423: Reminiscing of the original four-bay design
As the name suggests, the DS423 is a four-bay server of the standard family. It’s rather barebone with two Gigabit network ports and two USB 3.0 ports, with no upgrade options.
Powered by a 4-core 1.7 GHz Realtek RTD1619B and 2 GB DDR4 non-ECC RAM, the new server can handle up to 72TB of unprotected storage space (4x 18TB) or 54TB in a RAID 5. It also features other RAID configurations available to any server with four internal drives, including Synology’s convenient Hybrid RAID (SHR).
Physically, the new server’s design nostalgically reminds me of my very first Synology server, the original 4-bay DS410 released over a decade ago. It’s the first Synology server in a long time that doesn’t feature easy-access drive bays. You’ll have to open its case to service its storage, though that only involves a few large screws.
Running DSM 7 and supporting the Btrfs file system, you can expect the DS423 to be a far cry from the DS410 in features. But the two generally share the same goodness that Synology’s DiskStation Manager NAS operating system offers.
In all, this is a simple server for those with modest network storage needs yet still want lots of storage space. The new server is available now, with an affordable suggested price of $369.99 (diskless) — you need to get hard drives before you can use it.
And that brings us to the new Synology Plus Series Drives.
Plus Series Hard Drives: Made for mainstream Synology servers
The Plus Series Drives are 3.5-inch hard drives that use Seagate Ironwolf hardware but run Synology firmware.
They are an additional option for users needing reliable performance. They are part of Synoloyg’s existing compatibility list that includes many third-party drives made for low-cost and mainstream servers instead of the company’s existing Enterprise-grade drives.
Synology says these hard drives “have been rigorously tested and validated with Synology systems to ensure consistent performance in multi-user environments.”
Per Synology, key features of the Plus Series HDDs include:
- Reliable always-on operation: With 1 million hours of mean time between failures (MTBF) and 180TB/year workload rating, these CMR drives provide up to three times the endurance rating of conventional desktop hard drives.
- Tested for maximum reliability: Over 300,000 hours of stringent compatibility and stress testing ensure smooth operation even under multi-user workloads.
- Seamless firmware updates: Users can update drives directly from Synology’s DSM, eliminating the need to remove drives and perform manual updates.
- One-stop support: Customers can receive technical support and process returns by contacting Synology directly through their Synology Account.
- Four different capacities: The Plus Series HDDs come in 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 12TB models, catering to various storage needs and budgets.
The Synology Plus Series SATA HDDs are available now and retail at $89.99, $149.99, $189.99, and $249.99 for the 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 12TB capacities, respectively.
With that, let’s move on to the real news of the day, the Synoloyg BeeDrive.
Synology BeeDrive: A thin bridge between DAS and NAS
If you’re wondering about the name, this BeeDrive resembles a beehive.
For one, it’s a directly attached storage device, the technical name for a portable drive. You plug it into a computer via a USB port — the drive features USB-C — and it becomes the machine’s attached storage. It needs a computer to work, just like a beehive needs a tree. And, like a beehive, it gets busy fast — you can do many things with it.
A smart backup solution
Once plugged in, the BeeDrive includes software that, once installed, enables it to work as an automatic backup solution.
Specifically, you can choose what to back up from the host computer onto the drive, and the drive will perform backups in real time when you keep it plugged in or reconnect it.
Synology says the drive keeps a backup with up to five versions allowing users to restore data after accidental editing or deletion.
Additionally, it keeps backup files in their original format — allowing for easy restoration or viewing — and it can sync data between multiple computers, such as between home and office, just not in real time like the case of a NAS server.
So far, all that makes the BeeDrive similar to using any portable drive with Windows’s built-in File History backup utility. But there’s one more thing the BeeDrive can do, the BeeDrop.
BeeDrop: A pseudo network backup for mobile devices
BeeDrop is a mobile app (for Android and iOS) that enables backing up as many as five mobile devices’ photos and videos onto the BeeDrive via Wi-Fi.
This feature works when you keep the BeeDrive connected to a computer, essentially turning into somewhat of a “NAS server” by piggybacking on a computer’s resources and network connection. This use case is more applicable when you use the BeeDrive with a desktop computer.
Not a new idea, yet still unique
The idea of a portable drive with built-in automatic backup software is not new. For years, most, if not all, portable and desktop external drives have come with some backup software.
But the way Synology implements BeeDrive’s software might make backing up data more transparent and easy to use. And if that’s the case, it will help make backing up on a portable drive trendy again.
Among other things, this type of backup doesn’t cost extra, nor does it incur privacy risks. And unplugging a portable drive from the computer turns it into an offline backup which is not susceptible to ransomware attacks.
So, a BeeDrive or two might save the day. In any case, that doesn’t hurt.
Synology says the BeeDrive is available now in the 1TB and 2TB capacities that cost $119.99 and $199.99, respectively.
With these latest releases, Synology aims to approach general consumers in a friendly way by releasing less-expensive products. That’s a welcome change considering my biggest complaint about the brand is the high cost.
And all these new products are still comparatively expensive. For example, a 2TB Crucial X6 can be had for less than $100.
But hardware cost is relative. Value is in the software. We’ll have to wait and see how the BeeDrive pans out. At the very least, it’s another easy backup solution. And that’s never a bad thing.